By Fareed Zakaria
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Justin Trudeau’s sweeping victory in Canada could be read as one more indication that voters in the Western world are moving left — and toward populism. The past year has seen the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party. In the United States, Bernie Sanders, a self-professed “democratic socialist,” has shaken up the Democratic primaries. But the lessons of Trudeau’s victory are somewhat more complicated.
First, Trudeau benefited from the 10-year itch. After politicians have been in power for about a decade, voters usually want a change, no matter how popular the leader — think of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Canada’s Conservatives had held office for nine years, and their leader, Stephen Harper, was no Tony Blair — being widely perceived as intelligent but reserved and uncharismatic.
But why did Trudeau win? After all, his party was in third place only months ago. Some of the momentum has to do with his name and personal charisma. (He is the son of Canada’s most famous prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.) But much of it has to do with the kind of campaign he ran, which was neither very left-wing nor populist.
Justin Trudeau promised to respond to Canada’s economic slowdown by running modest deficits and building infrastructure. (That’s something that most mainstream economists would support.) He has refused to raise Canada’s corporate tax rate, although he wants a slightly higher income tax for the top 1 percent to fund a middle-class tax cut. He has been noncommittal on the new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, placing himself to the right of Hillary Clinton. He wants to legalize marijuana. And he has promised, vaguely, that Canada will have a more progressive climate change policy. This would put him squarely at the center-left in any Western country.